The Cowboy and the Lady


1h 31m 1938
The Cowboy and the Lady

Brief Synopsis

A socialite posing as her own maid falls for a rodeo rider.

Film Details

Also Known As
A Kiss in the Sun, Howdy Stranger, Spring Is in My Heart, The Cowboy and the Heiress, The Lady and the Cowboy
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Western
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Nov 17, 1938
Premiere Information
Los Angeles premiere: 10 Nov 1938
Production Company
Samuel Goldwyn, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Malibu, California, United States; Triunfo, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 31m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Synopsis

Mary Smith has lead a dull life, surrounded by political friends of her presidential hopeful father, Judge Horace Smith. Her Uncle Hannibal takes her to a gambling club for some excitement, which she gets when the club is raided by the police. The newspapers don't immediately connect her name to Judge Smith, but her father decides to send her to Palm Beach to avoid suspicion. While there, her two maids, Katie Callahan and Elly, feel sorry for her and invite her to go on a blind date with them. She meets and is attracted to shy rodeo star Stretch Willoughby, but because she lacks experience, she has to use every one of the tricks which Katie and Elly have taught her to interest him. He begins to respond when she tells him a hard luck story about supporting her father and sisters while working as a maid. The next day Stretch proposes and, though at first shocked by the idea, she follows him on a boat to Galveston. They are married by the captain and all seems happy until Katie calls with the news that Mr. Smith will soon be in Palm Beach. Mary tries to tell Stretch about her deception, but she can't because of his views on the idle rich, and instead tells him that she has to return home briefly because of a family crisis. When she arrives home, her father is unhappy with her news and coerces her into acting as hostess for him for some important guests. Meanwhile, Stretch becomes concerned when Mary doesn't return, and goes to Palm Beach. Arriving at the Smith home, he happens on their dinner party and discovers Mary's real identity. The dinner guests make fun of him, but his sincerity makes Mary realize how much she loves him. Uncle Hannibal also convinces Horace that his selfishness is taking away Mary's happiness. As Stretch arrives home in Montana, the entire Smith family is staying with his landlady, Ma Hawkins, and are trying to adapt to their new, simpler life.

Film Details

Also Known As
A Kiss in the Sun, Howdy Stranger, Spring Is in My Heart, The Cowboy and the Heiress, The Lady and the Cowboy
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Western
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Nov 17, 1938
Premiere Information
Los Angeles premiere: 10 Nov 1938
Production Company
Samuel Goldwyn, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Malibu, California, United States; Triunfo, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 31m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Award Wins

Best Sound

1938

Award Nominations

Best Score

1938

Best Song

1938

Articles

The Cowboy and the Lady


Has there ever been a less challenging big-screen persona than Gary Cooper's patented "aw-shucks" routine? It's a miracle that early audiences didn't give up on his repeated forays into feet-shuffling and toothpick-sucking. But they were utterly accommodating, due in no small measure to Cooper's otherworldly good looks. Although H.C. Potter's The Cowboy and the Lady (1938) is a virtual remake of an earlier Cooper vehicle called I Take This Woman (1931), there's no getting around the star's magnetism. If nothing else, Cooper was probably the best-looking male lead of the 1930s; you can't help but marvel at his striking features and that may be the best reason to watch The Cowboy and the Lady.

Cooper plays "Stretch" Willoughby, a rodeo cowboy who finds himself falling in love with a free-spirited young woman named Mary Smith (Merle Oberon), the daughter of a Presidential candidate (Henry Kolker). Mary and Stretch meet on a blind date after her father has exiled her to his estate in Florida. Even though Stretch is a textbook hayseed, the two lovebirds eventually marry. The formulaic nature of the film continues through the couple's squabble. But they make up when Cooper gets endearingly cornpone at just the right time, before just the right crowd. That may sound like a spoiler, but it's not like you expect them to suffer through a nasty divorce proceeding.

The Cowboy and the Lady sure did undergo a strenuous birthing process for such a light little comedy. Legend has it that director Leo McCarey wrote the script in three days to pay off some overdue hospital bills. Recognizing a dud when he wrote one, McCarey refused MGM's request that he direct the picture, rather poetically noting that he "wouldn't touch that crap." After a while, William Wyler, of all people, agreed to take the reigns, even though he too thought the script was a mess.

After just one day of filming, Wyler and studio head Sam Goldwyn were at each other's throats. "I am compelled to work without a completed script," Wyler said. "Only one sequence was ready to work when we started." Goldwyn, for his part, accused Wyler of doing too many re-takes and "wasting footage." So Wyler (who, as Bette Davis once pointed out, always did too many re-takes) stomped off in a huff, and Goldwyn suspended him. Although Wyler would never return to finish The Cowboy and the Lady, he and Goldwyn ultimately made up. The very next year, they successfully worked together on Wuthering Heights (1939).

The replacement of Wyler by H.C. Potter, however, did nothing to make the shoot easier. Production logs show that David Niven appeared in a few scenes, playing a British diplomat, but he ended up on the cutting room floor, as did some footage featuring actress Benita Hume. Many other minor actors were said to have worked on the picture, but also didn't make the final cut.

Things finally got so out of hand, Life magazine noted that the budget had skyrocketed past $1,750,000, no small amount for a Western at that time. The picture was a very minor success, but no one really seemed to care in the long run. Cooper would frequently strike gold in the future, becoming a Hollywood icon who's revered to this day.

Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Director: H.C. Potter
Screenplay: S.N. Behrman, Sonya Levien
Cinematography: Gregg Toland
Editing: Sherman Todd
Music: Alfred Newman, Lionel Newman, Arthur Quenzer
Art Direction: James Basevi, Richard Day
Set Design: Julia Heron
Costume Design: Omar Kiam
Sound: Paul Neal, Thomas T. Moulton
Principal Cast: Gary Cooper ("Stretch" Willoughby), Merle Oberon (Mary Smith), Patsy Kelly (Katie Callahan), Walter Brennan (Sugar), Fuzzy Knight (Buzz), Mabel Todd (Elly), Henry Kolker (Horace Smith), Harry Davenport (Uncle Hannibal Smith), Emma Dunn (Ma Hawkins).
B&W-91m.

by Paul Tatara
The Cowboy And The Lady

The Cowboy and the Lady

Has there ever been a less challenging big-screen persona than Gary Cooper's patented "aw-shucks" routine? It's a miracle that early audiences didn't give up on his repeated forays into feet-shuffling and toothpick-sucking. But they were utterly accommodating, due in no small measure to Cooper's otherworldly good looks. Although H.C. Potter's The Cowboy and the Lady (1938) is a virtual remake of an earlier Cooper vehicle called I Take This Woman (1931), there's no getting around the star's magnetism. If nothing else, Cooper was probably the best-looking male lead of the 1930s; you can't help but marvel at his striking features and that may be the best reason to watch The Cowboy and the Lady. Cooper plays "Stretch" Willoughby, a rodeo cowboy who finds himself falling in love with a free-spirited young woman named Mary Smith (Merle Oberon), the daughter of a Presidential candidate (Henry Kolker). Mary and Stretch meet on a blind date after her father has exiled her to his estate in Florida. Even though Stretch is a textbook hayseed, the two lovebirds eventually marry. The formulaic nature of the film continues through the couple's squabble. But they make up when Cooper gets endearingly cornpone at just the right time, before just the right crowd. That may sound like a spoiler, but it's not like you expect them to suffer through a nasty divorce proceeding. The Cowboy and the Lady sure did undergo a strenuous birthing process for such a light little comedy. Legend has it that director Leo McCarey wrote the script in three days to pay off some overdue hospital bills. Recognizing a dud when he wrote one, McCarey refused MGM's request that he direct the picture, rather poetically noting that he "wouldn't touch that crap." After a while, William Wyler, of all people, agreed to take the reigns, even though he too thought the script was a mess. After just one day of filming, Wyler and studio head Sam Goldwyn were at each other's throats. "I am compelled to work without a completed script," Wyler said. "Only one sequence was ready to work when we started." Goldwyn, for his part, accused Wyler of doing too many re-takes and "wasting footage." So Wyler (who, as Bette Davis once pointed out, always did too many re-takes) stomped off in a huff, and Goldwyn suspended him. Although Wyler would never return to finish The Cowboy and the Lady, he and Goldwyn ultimately made up. The very next year, they successfully worked together on Wuthering Heights (1939). The replacement of Wyler by H.C. Potter, however, did nothing to make the shoot easier. Production logs show that David Niven appeared in a few scenes, playing a British diplomat, but he ended up on the cutting room floor, as did some footage featuring actress Benita Hume. Many other minor actors were said to have worked on the picture, but also didn't make the final cut.

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Working titles for the film included Spring Is in My Heart, A Kiss in the Sun, Howdy Stranger, The Cowboy and the Heiress and The Lady and the Cowboy. The title briefly changed to The Lady and the Cowboy in early September 1938 when Samuel Goldwyn was sued by the Clyde Fitch estate over use of the title The Cowboy and the Lady, which was the title of a 1908 Fitch story purchased by Paramount Pictures and filmed by them in 1927. The 1927 film and the Fitch story had no relation to the Goldwyn story, however, and Goldwyn subsequently bought the rights to the title from Paramount. According to various news items in Hollywood Reporter and Motion Picture Daily, William Wyler began the picture's direction. Shortly after the first day of shooting, however, when the company was on location in Malibu, Goldwyn and Wyler argued over extensive retakes and Goldwyn accused Wyler of "wasting footage." Wyler charged that he was forced to work without a completed script and walked off the picture. Goldwyn subsequently suspended Wyler who, according to Hollywood Reporter, earned $50,000 per picture. Though Wyler did not return to the production, he and Goldwyn settled their dispute and Wyler directed his next picture for Goldwyn, Wuthering Heights (see below). ^5Several news items in Hollywood trade papers and national magazines noted that the picture "set a record" for the number of screenwriters employed at various times to work on the script. Although only Leo McCarey, Frank R. Adams, S. N. Behrman and Sonya Levien are given writing credits on screen, a large number of other writers contributed to the project at various stages. Anita Loos and John Emerson wrote a version of the story when it was called Spring Is in My Heart. It was their first writing assignment for Goldwyn. Lillian Hellman, Bob Ardey, Howard Estabrook, Frederick Lonsdale, Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell, Eddie Moran, Frank Ryan, Gene Fowler, Richard Connell, and Robert Riskin also worked on the script at various stages of its development. Although the work of many of these writers probably was not reflected in the final film, an article in Daily Variety dated August 30, 1938 stated that Riskin was doing "the mop up work" after the picture's third month of production, and Hollywood Citizen-News called Ryan the "business" writer on the set.
       According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, portions of the film were also shot on location at Triunfo, CA, where 150 riders were used as extras in the rodeo sequence. Other news items and production charts note that David Niven played the role of a British diplomat during filming, but his role was eliminated, as was that of actress Benita Hume, who was to portray the stepmother of the character Mary Smith. Thomas Mitchell was originally cast as Judge Smith, but the role was taken over by Henry Kolker in the early part of the production. Other actors who were listed in news items during the film's production but whose appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed are, Iron Eyes, Silver Tip Baker, John Judd, Steve Clemente and Dan Borzage. According to a news item, Borzage, the brother of director Frank Borzage, was to play the accordion in the film.
       A Daily Variety article noted that the budget had gone past the $1,000,000 mark. A Life magazine article that appeared the week the film was released stated that the budget was over $1,750,000 and called it the first of a "new cycle" of expensive top star Westerns. A pre-release feature article in Hollywood Citizen-News mentioned that the White House had been approached to see if the film could include some newsreel footage of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but he declined. A Hollywood Reporter news item noted that a large promotion was to be made for the film at the November 5, 1938 USC vs. California football game in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, during which airplanes would fly overhead advertising the picture and commemorative hats would be given out to fans. The picture was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Song, and won the award for Best Sound. Although Paul Neal is credited on the film, Thomas Moulton accepted the award as head of Goldwyn's sound department. This was the second time Walter Brennan and Gary Cooper had appeared together in a film and the first of Brennan's five roles as Cooper's "sidekick." On January 20, 1941 Merle Oberon and Gene Autry appeared on a Lux Radio Theatre version of the story. Modern sources state that second unit director Stuart Heisler took over direction of the picture for a few days when H. C. Potter had to leave the over-schedule picture to work on RKO's The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (See below). Modern sources include Billy Wayne, Ernie Adams, Russ Powell, and Jack Baxley in the cast.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1938

Released in United States on Video June 10, 1992

Released in United States 1938

Released in United States on Video June 10, 1992